Preliminary Budget Hearing – Committee on Immigration
Submitted to: NYC Council, Committee on Immigration
Submitted by: Jessica Orozco, Esq.
Director of Immigration and Civic Engagement
March 24, 2016
Good afternoon, my name is Jessica Orozco and I am the Director of Immigration and Civic Engagement at the Hispanic Federation (HF). Chair Menchaca and committee members, thank you for the opportunity to testify on behalf of Hispanic Federation and New York’s Latino community partners.
Hispanic Federation is the premier Latino membership organization in the nation founded to address the many inequities confronting Latinos and the nonprofits that serve them. For more than 20 years, Hispanic Federation has provided grants, administered human services and coordinated advocacy for our broad network of agencies that serve more than 2 million Latinos in areas of immigration, health, education, economic empowerment, and civic engagement.
HF would like to commend the Council’s committee on immigration for its leadership and support in ensuring that New York City is a place where immigrants can prosper and feel safe. Since 2015, New York has seen the creation of the IDNYC program and Action NYC, two tremendous programs that aim to assist thousands of immigrants.
To secure the existence of these and other programs that aim to serve the immigrant community, HF recommends that the New York City Council continue to allocate funding to the following programs.
Immigrant Opportunity Initiative, Adult Literacy Services Initiative & Action NYC
New York City’s Immigrant Opportunity Initiative (IOI) provides access to crucial services to NYC’s immigrant community, providing funding for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, citizenship and permanent residency application assistance, and support with employment authorization and issues. The entire community benefits from these immigration programs. As immigrants learn English, their chances of obtaining jobs with better pay increases, leading to bigger tax contributions to the City and empowering immigrants to civically contribute to their communities.
Funding for IOI has steadily decreased since its height of $11.25 million in 2008 to $4.3 million in 2015. However, NYC’s foreign-born population is steadily growing. Currently, approximately 37% of NYC’s population is foreign-born. Over the past 5 years, state and federal funding for immigrant services has drastically decreased, putting a burdensome strain on immigrant service providers. In order to meet the need for immigrant services in this great city, HF recommends that the NYC council allocate a total of $10 million for IOI, or at the very least, double the baselined amount of funding for IOI.
In addition, New York City is expecting implementation of Expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA+) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). With this program, over 180,000 New York City residents would qualify for these programs. Action NYC was designed to help these New Yorkers prepare their applications and also screen them for existing forms of immigration benefits. ActionNYC is a way for our immigrant brothers and sisters to obtain free, quality immigration legal help in their community. HF proposes to fund ActionNYC at 8.3 million for FY 2017.
HF also recommends that the NYC Council double the amount of funding baselined for NYC’s Adult Literacy Services, allocating $5 million dollars to the program. With state and federal funding for literacy services also at a decline, community–based organizations are constantly struggling to stay afloat to provide staple services such as Adult Basic Education (ABE), ESOL and GED preparation classes. As these organizations are trusted by community-members and located within the heart of affected neighborhoods, adult literacy service providers are among the best qualified and most effective in New York City. They provide a comfortable and intimate setting for participants to become educated, gain indispensable skills and obtain their degrees. As more individuals complete these programs, the entire city benefits, for every GED/high school diploma earned generates net benefits in the amount of $324,000 for the City.
New York Immigrant Family Unity Project
In 2013, the NYC Council provided $500,000 in funding to launch a pilot program called the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP). The goal of the NYIFUP is to provide legal representation to 190 indigent immigrants in removal proceedings at the Varick Street Immigration Court in Manhattan. To date, NYIFUP has been a tremendous success. As you know, the right to legal representation does not extend to immigration courts. Sixty percent of detained immigrants and 27% of non-detained immigrants in New York do not have legal counsel. There are over 60,000 immigrants who are facing imminent deportation in New York City’s immigration courts – including thousands in detention. Many lack access to counsel in these removal proceedings. Having representation greatly impacts the client’s experience in detention and probability of relief from removal. In fact, individuals who have legal counsel in removal proceedings are ten times more likely to have a successful outcome. HF strongly encourages NYC Council to increase its funding for NYIFUP in the FY’ 2017 budget to $5.5 million to permit the program to continue. This budget would allow NYIFUP to provide legal representation to at least 1,650 NYC residents and allow agencies to deliver quality services to those truly in need, keeping families together, ensuring due process and equal access to representation.
In 2015, NYC created the City’s first municipal identification program, IDNYC. The program has been a tremendous success. IDNYC is available to all New York City residents, regardless of immigration status. It provides an array of benefits to cardholders, like receiving discounts and free admission to cultural institutions, opening bank accounts, and entering City government buildings. The NYC municipal ID program is especially beneficial to undocumented immigrants, giving this vulnerable population an acceptable and secure form of identification.
With more than 670,000 IDNYC cardholders, IDNYC is now the largest municipal ID program in the country and we must allocate adequate resources to this program to continue its success. HF proposes to allocate $7.5 million to the IDNYC program.
Unaccompanied Minors & Families
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, between October 1, 2013, and July 31, 2014, the Department of Homeland Security has apprehended over 63,000 unaccompanied children fleeing human rights abuses, violent gangs, domestic violence, drug traffickers, human trafficking, and economic deprivation at the southern border. From October 1, 2013 to December 31, 2015, New York State received almost 10,000 unaccompanied minors and about 1/3 of those minors reside in New York City.
These children fled the unspeakable violence of their home countries, suffered the physical and emotional stress of their journey, and endured the confinement of detention centers. Post-border crossing, these youth spend months – if not years – entangled in immigration and family court proceedings which forced them to revisit their trauma on a regular basis.
Between 40 and 60% are estimated to be eligible for immigration relief. But, if they don’t have an attorney, they don’t know what they qualify for the process of obtaining the legal relief.
New York City’s Unaccompanied Minors and Families Initiative seeks to provide every unaccompanied minor in New York City with an attorney, and to provide this population with legal services, health care, education, and social services. HF recommends NYC to fund this program at $1.6 million.
Immigrant Health Initiative
New York City’s Immigrant Health Imitative focuses on decreasing health disparities among foreign born New Yorkers by: improving access to health care, addressing cultural and language barriers; and targeting resources and interventions. HF recommends that NYC fund this program with $1.6 million and provide these essential services to its immigrant community.
Thank you for your time and attention to these important issues. It is our hope that making these investments in the final FY’ 17 Budget will improve Latino community-based organizations that provide essential services and build a stronger New York City for us all.